8 Million Patents and Going


The United States issues patents by the millions and our patent system was created to support intellectual property, which is recognized in our Constitution: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." We invite you to take a look at some of these "milestone millions" from over the years.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued patent number 8,000,000 on August 16, 2011 to Second Sight Medical Products, Inc., for a visual prosthesis apparatus that enhances visual perception for people who have gone blind due to outer retinal degeneration. The invention uses electrical stimulation of the retina to produce the visual perception of patterns of light. The product - the Argus® II - is currently in U.S. clinical trials and has received marketing approval in Europe. The signing and presentation of the 8 millionth patent by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos will take place at the Smithsonian American Art Museum on Sept. 8, 2011.


Located in Sylmar, Calif., Second Sight Medical Products, Inc. is a privately held company founded in 1998 by Alfred Mann, Dr. Sam Williams and Gunnar Bjorg with the goal of creating a retinal prosthesis to provide sight to subjects blinded from outer retinal degenerations, such as retinitis pigmentosa. In a healthy eye, the photoreceptors (rods and cones) on the retina convert light into tiny electrochemical impulses that are sent through the optic nerve and into the brain, where they are decoded into images. If the photoreceptors no longer function correctly, the first step in this process is disrupted and the visual system cannot transform light into images, causing blindness.

The patented Argus® II is designed to bypass the damaged photoreceptors altogether. A miniature video camera housed in the patient's glasses sends information to a small computer worn by the patient where it is processed and transformed into instructions transmitted wirelessly to a receiver in an implanted stimulator. The signals are then sent to an electrode array, attached to the retina, which emits small pulses of electricity. These electrical pulses are intended to bypass the damaged photoreceptors and stimulate the retina's remaining cells to transmit the visual information along the optic nerve to the brain.

Second Sight's first clinical trial of Argus I began in 2002 with 6 subjects in total. With the experience gained from the Argus I trial, and further technological developments, a second generation device was created - the Argus® II. For this device, a two-patient pilot study was initiated in Mexico in 2006, followed by a 30-patient trial in 10 centers across Europe and the United States.

"This kind of innovation is a driver of our nation's economic growth and job creation," said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos. "The USPTO plays a major role in serving America's innovators by granting the intellectual property rights they need to secure investment capital, build companies and bring their products and services to the global marketplace."

"Second Sight has 90 issued U.S. patents surrounding technology associated with sight restoration for the blind and treatment of a variety of other medical conditions," said Robert Greenberg, president and CEO of Second Sight. "This patent protection and significant federal support for innovation have already played key roles in creating nearly 100 U.S. jobs at our company. Once the Argus® II has FDA approval in the United States, we expect to create hundreds of more jobs over the next several years, while delivering a breakthrough treatment for a previously untreatable medical condition."